European ambassadors urge Sudan to free protesters

A protest in Khartoum [@SudanTribune_EN Twitter]

European embassies in Sudan made a joint plea yesterday (31 January) for Khartoum to free dozens of people, including opposition leaders and human rights activists, detained while protesting against high food prices.

“We condemn the violence used against peaceful protest, and continue to encourage those exercising their fundamental rights to do so peacefully,” the embassies of European Union member states said in a statement.

“The ambassadors of the resident EU embassies in Sudan are very concerned by the prolonged detention without charge or trial of a large number of political leaders, human rights activists and other citizens.”

They urged Khartoum to release all those still detained to ensure that they “are not mistreated”.

Sporadic protests erupted across Sudan earlier this month after prices of food, notably bread, soared following a jump in the cost of flour due to a shortage of wheat.

Anti-riot police and plainclothes security agents swiftly moved in and crushed the demonstrations held in Khartoum and some other parts of the country. Police often fired tear gas to break up the protests.

In an attempt to crush the rallies, the authorities detained several opposition leaders and human rights activists. Several journalists were also detained while covering the protests, but most of them have since been released.

The embassies also expressed concern at the “repeated seizures” of newspapers by security agents who have often confiscated entire print runs of some dailies that criticised the authorities for the rise in food prices.

On Wednesday, crowds protested in a Khartoum suburb after opposition groups called for a demonstration against the government’s management of the economy, witnesses said.

Anti-riot policemen and security agents swiftly broke up the rally and arrested many protesters who chanted slogans against high prices, the witnesses said.

Social media networks like Twitter and Facebook uploaded pictures and videos of protest held in the capital.

There were also sporadic protests in late 2016 after the government cut fuel subsidies.

The authorities cracked down on those protests in an attempt to prevent a repeat of deadly unrest that followed an earlier round of subsidy cuts in 2013.

Rights groups say dozens of people were killed in 2013 when security forces crushed large street demonstrations, drawing international condemnation.

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